The city of Maricopa may have been founded 18 years ago, but it has history worth exploring for residents and tourists alike.

What better way to see local history than with the aid of a list full of places to explore with family and friends?

Whether it’s called Maricopa Wells, Maricopaville, Maricopa Junction or Maricopa, the community feeling remains the same.

Why is the history of a town, city, state or nation important? First, it starts with empty land, then it gets inhabited with one or more people, until eventually over time, humans decide it’s time to make a name for themselves and put themselves on the map.

Before Maricopa became Maricopa, let’s look at history way back, then move forward.

The Huhugam people were the first to live in the area. Akimel O’odham settled the area. In 1846, Gen. Kearny and the Army of the West Mormon Battalion marched through it.

A couple years later, the war with Mexico ended and U.S. territory was established. In 1854, the Gadsden Purchase added the area of Maricopa to the U.S.

A few years later, the Maricopa Wells stagecoach stop became established. In 1863, the territory of Arizona was established.

In 1879, Maricopaville became established as a railroad stop. In 1887, the current location of Maricopa was established by the railroad.

On Feb. 14, 1912, the statehood of Arizona was granted. On Oct. 15, 2003, the city of Maricopa was incorporated.

That’s a lot of history for an ever-growing town, which has now surpassed Casa Grande in size according to the latest census. It also doesn’t seem like much history because of how little of a story went with each piece.

These next moments in history won’t be as short. This next part is interactive that people who visit Maricopa can go and see for themselves, the past and present of Maricopa.

A lot of the original structures in Maricopa are no longer standing because of fires or removal to make room for more modern conveniences.

One of the structures still standing today is a 60-foot-high, black water tower without water. It was Maricopa’s water supply for people and trains from the late 1800s through the 1900s. A railroad station used to be located next to the water tower.

In 1954, the Southern Pacific Railroad didn’t want to be in the water business anymore, so it sold the towers and the whole water company to a local businessman, Silas Woods, for $1.

In the middle of the 1970s, another 500-gallon water tower was installed and in 1974, the first one caved due to strong winds.

In 1921, Perry Williams donated four lots (2 acres) for a new school, which was a red brick schoolhouse. The students were taught in a building located where the site for the Headquarters Restaurant, which is still standing and operating, is.

In 1914, Maricopa women helped lay the foundation for the first permanent schoolhouse south of the tracks. The school cost $5,000, had two rooms, one teacher, one aide and 12 students in eight grades.

The school was located where the Maricopa High School baseball field is today. A fire destroyed it in 1953.

Maricopa Wells was the first location of Maricopa, west of Pima Butte (“M” Mountain) and south of the Gila River. It had a fort-like structure located in the middle of the Sonoran Desert that was a major Butterfield Stage Station and a haven for traders, trappers and thousands of immigrants traveling through Arizona territory during the 1800s.

Hotel Williams and the Lunch-Room next door received lots of business from train passengers. It offered ringing bells, large collections of Native American baskets, special accommodations for the ladies and a nest of wildcats.

The baskets are at the University of Arizona museum in Tucson, from the Perry Williams family. Across the street from the hotel was the water tank and train station. In 1913, the hotel and lunch-room burned down.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Maricopa citizens received their income either indirectly or directly from the Southern Pacific Railroad. This made all the businesses centered near the tracks.

The train station was located by the tracks with Wells Fargo east of the station and the popular Edwards Hotel north of the station.

Around 1890, the Edwards Hotel was built, advertising honeymoon suites. This hotel played host to many dignitaries, including at least two presidents.

The McCarthy family and then the Deal family bought and operated it. This hotel was also called Maricopa Hotel.

In 1931, the train station and Edwards Hotel were destroyed in a fire.

Some other important and fun places to take the family are Millar Airport, the Dwarf Car Museum, Copper Sky Recreation Complex, the APEX Motor Club and the various parks around Maricopa such as Pacana Park, just to name a few.

Paul Shirk, Maricopa Historical Society president, said when he moved to Maricopa 14 years ago, a relative of his living in north Phoenix said they couldn’t believe he was moving here.

“The many years and rich history of Maricopa is worth remembering as a prime example of what treasures can be found where you least expect,” Shirk said in an email. “We hope our research, presentations, events and conversations bring knowledge of the many years and rich history of a place some people might have thought of as unimportant.”

He said Maricopa’s history is being added to each day as it grows. It still keeps the community spirit generations later, helping each other out and having each other’s back.

Shirk said at his relative’s last visit to Maricopa, they said they had no idea how much history this town had.

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Kimlye Stager covers Maricopa and the surrounding area for PinalCentral, including city, education, business, crime and more. She can be reached at kstager@pinalcentral.com.

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